Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Shaped Poetry

“Easter Wings” by George Herbert
Lord, who createdst man in wealth and store,
Though foolishly he lost the same,
Decaying more and more,
Till he became
Most poor: 5
With Thee
O let me rise,
As larks, harmoniously,
And sing this day thy victories:
Then shall the fall further the flight in me. 10

My tender age in sorrow did begin;
And still with sicknesses and shame
Thou didst so punish sin,
That I became
Most thin. 15
With Thee
Let me combine,
And feel this day thy victory
For, if I imp my wing on thine,
Affliction shall advance the flight in me. 20

Until last Friday, I didn’t know shaped poems existed. In class, we looked through different poems that bridged the gap between visual art and poetry. Sometimes shaped poetry is represented in words that resemble an object (for example, writing apple repeatedly and cutting some parts of the word out so that the main shape of the words is an apple). Other times, the meaning of the poem resembled the object directly, or in other words, it was mimetic.

George Herbet’s “Easter Wings” is very fascinating in that the poem has a pattern that resembles two birds taking flight. Originally, the two stanzas were printed on two pages and had a different arrangement that made the imagery more clear. Even so, without the original arrangement, the poem still presents the same idea.

I really like this poem because, as you read down each stanza, it’s as if you can envision a bird spreading its wings. This is because as you read the stanza and it becomes thinner, a saddening tone is given off. For example, in the second stanza in lines 13-15, the tone is expressed, “Thou didst so punish/ That I became/Most thin.” Then, all of a sudden, the poem starts to become fat again, like a bird spreading its wings. However, this time, the mood is uplifting: “With thee/Let me combine/And feel this day thy victory/For if I imp my wing on thine/Affliction shall advance the flight in me” (lines 16-20).

This poem was a very new experience for me and reading the poem gave me chills because it moved me as I was reading it. The first half of each stanza brought broke down my spirits. However, the second half of each stanza turned my mood around and filled me with a bit of happiness.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Iambic Pentameter

For a couple of days in class, we have been playing with iambic pentameter and seeing which poems can fit into that form. We were split into groups and given different tasks that all had to do with iambic pentameter. My group and I had the role of trying to fit Langston Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” into iambic pentameter. Our results were quite surprising. We found that there were some lines here and there that fit. For example, the last five lines (31-35) matched iambic pentameter very well:

And far into the night he crooned that tune.

The stars went out and so did the moon.

The singer stopped playing and went to bed

While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.

He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.

For those of you who don’t know what iambic pentameter is, it’s when you have about five pairs of iambs in each line. An iamb is a two-syllable word starting with an unstressed syllable and ending with a stressed syllable (for example, alone). Now that you know what iambic pentameter is, we can go back and split the poem:

and FAR inTO the NIGHT he CROONED that TUNE.

the STAIRS went OUT and SO did the MOON.

the SINGer stopped PLAYing and WENT to BED

while the Weary BLUES ECHoed through his HEAD.

he SLEPT like a ROCK on a MAN that’s DEAD.

As you can see, not all the lines have perfect iambic pentameter, but it’s still more or less the same pattern. I was so surprised when I saw how Hughes, either unintentionally or intentionally, used iambic pentameter. However, at the same time, he still stuck to the jazzy rhythm that “The Weary Blues” belongs to and simply applied a bit of old school structure to his free poem.

Monday, September 3, 2007

About Me

Hey readers. My name is Yves Gahimbare and I'm majoring in Human Biology, Health and Society at Cornell University in the College of Human Ecology. All this means is that I'm a pre-med bio major at Cornell. Even though there's a lot of work involved, I try to relax my mind and stay focused on my dream to go to medical school.
Unlike most of the students that go to Cornell, I'm from Ithaca (the city in which Cornell is located). Most people don't fancy the idea of going to college in the same town they went to college, but it doesn't bother me that much because when it isn't snowing, Ithaca's a great place to be.
The reason I enjoy living in Ithaca so much is because there is so much love for music here and there are always people playing music in parks and at "open mic" nights in cafes in collegetown. This is great for me because I love playing music and sometimes perform with my friends. I mainly play the guitar (preferably the acoustic guitar) and sing, but I can also play bass guitar and a little bit of piano. Some of my other hobbies include playing soccer and basketball with my friends.
Good writing is writing that has structure and purpose and is interesting to read at the same time. Good writing doesn't always have to have correct grammar, spelling and punctuation, but writing with a hidden message is always very interesting to read (i.e. poetry).
For my writing seminar, The Reading of Poetry with Theo Hummer, I had to write a paper about a line of poetry that stood out in its poem. I chose Stevie Smith's "Not Waving but Drowning" because it is a piece of literature with a lot of meaning despite its short length. The line I chose from the poem is "I was much further out than you thought/ and not waving but drowning" (lines 3-4) because this line allowed me to view the poem in a totally different way than I had the first few times I read it. I wish to improve my paper by making my transitions between paragraphs smoother and by making stellar introductions and conclusions so that my paper will sparkle.
While in this class, I really want to continue reading poetry and discussing it with my classmates. By doing this, I will be able to find out a lot more about myself and what I really think by expressing my thoughts out loud (and I will also be able to learn more about my classmates). However, most of all, I really just want to learn more about poetry. :)